Deltek has announced the release and general availability (GA) of Deltek Cobra 8.3. Supported customers can now download this version from the DSM. We previously highlighted what we thought was coming up in this release and it looks like Cobra 8.3 has got everything we discussed.
We’re excited about Cobra 8.3, because not only is this a significant milestone in supporting the new IPMDR (Integrated Program Management Data Report) Data Item Description (DiD), but it also boasts some very welcome improvements to functionality and the user interaction experience.
Let’s start with the most significant driver behind this particular release and briefly talk about IPMDR. This long-awaited DiD has been hanging out there on the brink for rather more time than anyone first imagined. And, according to our Deltek sources, is the main reason we haven’t seen the 8.3 version released much sooner. Insert joke about government efficiency here. J
In fact, as I write this, the new IPMDR DiD is still not approved on the hill so there are no contracts currently being compelled to report using IPMDR. However, the technical particulars of this DiD are more-or-less stable now, so evidently Deltek has decided to release Cobra 8.3 ahead of government sign-off.
And thus, my colleagues and I are very glad that Deltek decided to go ahead anyway; because it turns out the rumors are true, and there’s some really, really cool stuff in Deltek Cobra 8.3 that goes well beyond IPMDR support.
Deltek Cobra 8.3 Preview
So, we installed this update – which was quick and easy, taking less than a minute in our standalone test system. We then restored one of our favorite test projects and started digging in.
Here’s what we found. The yellow row you see is the ‘Total’ row, and I think many of you will immediately see the value of this little beauty.
Interestingly, this Totals row is always on, you can’t toggle it off anywhere. Believe me, we tried, but it’s not switchable. But that’s just fine, because it means you no longer have to run reports to see a total for the entire project. And what’s more, when you copy the view to Microsoft Excel, you will see it there also.
The Total row will aggregate all the items in the rows below. That is to say, if you filter out some of the Control Accounts, the total cell of say, the BAC column in the spreadsheet table, would be reduced.
Now keep in mind, that it’s early days yet for the Total row, and not all the date fields show summary data. For example, the baseline date columns do show the earliest and latest date in the total row, other fields such as Actual dates no not. And not all the numeric fields like ‘User Numeric Fields’ will get a total value either. We believe that this will be added in subsequent releases, but for now only the most frequently used fields will give a total.
Clear All Filters
If you make frequent use of the filters in the column headers, as do I, then you’ll love this: the ‘Clear All Filters’ button. You’re now just one click away from returning your spreadsheet area to full detail after completing some filtering operations, without the need to go back to all the filtered column headers to switch them off individually.
We also wanted to see how the SPI and CPI Totals behaved when we removed some Control Accounts, and sure enough, they calculate the total on what is present in the spreadsheet table, not what is present in the project. So if you don’t like your CPI, just filter out the bad guys! Oh no, did I just say that out loud?
Deltek Cobra 8.3 now allows you to export your project data in the new to create a cluster of cost-centered JSON files packed into a zip. As promised, here’s how you run this new format and what you get at the end of the process.
When you click on this button you will see the ‘Deltek Common Data’ and the new ‘IPMDR – Contract Performance Format’ option.
When you select the ‘IPMDR’ option, one of the subsequent dialogs offers you Data Options to export at either the Control Account or Work Package level. Unlike the old wInsight and UNCFACT XML exports, you can no longer export values at select levels of the WBS. This ensures that IPMDR meets the requirement for improved CA to WP visibility, something our government friends are always looking for.
Moving right along, the ‘Export historical data:’ option offers a Time-phased option, or a Cumulative to date option depending on what will be required by the contract language.
If you have been taking advantage of the options in the Resources ancillary file, you can select to export these ‘Elements of Cost’ (Labor, Material, Subcontract, or ODC) separately using the Elements of Cost option, or as merged values when you choose ‘None’.
If you are using the Control Account 1 – 3 key field options in your project Files setup area, you can elect to use them to define a control account in the export data. To do this you select the ‘Use WBS/OBS combination as Control Account’ option.
You also have plenty of control regarding your cost data using the ‘Direct values’ and/or ‘Indirect Values’ checkbox in the ‘Detail data contains’ group area. And for those of you familiar with the wInsight export, options to breakout the burdens for NonAdd overhead reporting. And thinking out loud just for a moment, it’s going to be interesting to see how these options will be specified in future Contract Data Requirements Lists.
Finally you get the opportunity to save your configuration and export the JSON data files into a zip file.
And because we’re all total geeks at heart, we opened one of these JSON file up to see what’s inside. As promised some human-readable data: in this case concerning the Control Accounts we exported.
Well now that was exciting wasn’t it! My propeller will be spinning for weeks after that experience. There is talk of the government providing some software to process and report on these JSON files, but I think we can get a very good idea what we are sending our customer just by opening them in Notepad as we did here.
Process Logs User Improvements
And here’s wishing we had upgraded a more weathered test system, the new Process Logs dialog shows the new ‘Date range’ and ‘Show Logs for user:’ filter fields. And had we got a lot more logs in our system, as likely you have in yours, you will appreciate the Start Time sort default that is putting the newest log at the top of the list. May I say “Bravo” in an annoying loud voice?
You will also find that if you have used such features as ‘Update Totals’, the log will include details about the included classes, and the settings you entered for the ‘Reclass’ and ‘Respread’ processes displayed prominently within the Process Log itself.
This one’s for all you ‘Pivot Heads’: you will see three additional tabs (CAWP, Resources, and Rates) at the bottom of the Excel reports you run. So for those of you who like to use the Data tab for custom reporting, you can now pivot on these additional data dumps reducing the need to write custom SQL statements for some of the more common custom reporting needs.
The Resource and Rates tabs are based on the contents of whatever ancillary files the project is using, not on the resource and rate assignments being used in the projects. The CAWP tab however, is most definitely base in the project, and will doubtless be a source of endless possibilities for spreadsheet mayhem – after the fact.
Deltek have also added support for Macro-enabled Excel Spreadsheet templates (.xlsm), so you can now create Macros to run on your reports after the report has been run.
Introducing a really useful option: the ability to Reclass Earned Classes. Previously this was not possible, so those who are perhaps migrating current projects from MPM can now build a more detailed history of performance using this capability.
Because ‘Earned’ is a calculated value based upon the progress achieved on a work package, there has always been issues around getting historical EV into a new project. Previously, workarounds needed to be performed using SQL Scripts to migrate this kind of data from an actual cost, or whatever, to an earned class.
Primavera P6 Integration
Primavera P6 Integration enhancements include: support for loading Non-labor, Labor, and Material quantities when you are importing the project baseline or changes thereto. And filtering of Data loaded from the Schedule has been added in this release.
You can also now perform updates to work packages using the progress technique when doing status updates.
And you will find a new checkbox option on the P6 integration wizard’s Filter page that lets you select activities based upon one or more selected code field values that are set against activities within the source schedule. So, you could for example, load only activities that are owned by a particular CAM, are in a certain location, or whatever value you want.
In the Project Preferences dialog, there is an additional option permitting the editing of current period values when the ‘Prevent editing of historical time-phased values’ option is enabled in the Project Properties dialog.
To Save or Not to Save?
Customers were having trouble knowing if their project needed saving or not because the Save icon toggled between dark and light gray. I must have been having the same trouble judging by the number of times I had to respond to that “Save the project before running process X, Y, or Z!” message. You will be happy to know that the save button is now a nice clear ‘Blue’ color when the project has outstanding saves, and a nice dull gray when no save is needed.
Cost Point Cloud Support
For Cost Point users, there is now support for Cost Point Cloud integration whereby you can login to the Cost Point cloud to pull your actuals over for the period.
And to finish off, there is an improved help system that provides multi-word search string support (and/or) for more targeted results. It also gives you direct access to the Deltek Learning Zone, and Customer Care so if you need more help, it’s all just a click away.
I was particularly excited about getting my hands on this Deltek Cobra 8.3 release, mostly because of the user interaction improvements. And now it’s here, I have to say it has exceeded my expectations. Many of these improvements, while they may seem minor in the shadow of IPMDR are already making this tool easier to use.
I get a sense of ‘reduced friction’ every time Deltek make interface improvements to this system, and to me at least, that is often far more important for user experience, loyalty and longevity than new features.
As I said before, the focus of this release has been on IPMDR. However, this will only start to become relevant over the next couple of years as it always takes time for new contracts to be written with the requirement, and of course the current elephant in the room still being these ongoing sign-off delays.
So in short, whether or not you think you might have an IPMDR requirement somewhere in your future, get Deltek Cobra 8.3 installed on your production system pronto. I strongly suspect you won’t regret it.